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Delaware Department of Justice
Attorney General
Kathy Jennings

 Archived Posts From:  April 1999

99-IB03: Re: Freedom of Information Act Complaint Against Town of Bethany Beach

The Complainant alleged that the Town of Bethany Beach had violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by (i) meeting in executive sessions on three occasions for purposes not authorized by law; and (ii) not giving the required notice of a special meeting held on February 19, 1999. The Town admitted that its Council had gone into executive session on the three days indicated and that it had not given the seven days notice of the special meeting typically required by FOIA, but argued that it had appropriate reasons for doing so. Held: With respect to the executive sessions, the Attorney General’s office reviewed the confidential minutes of the executive sessions and determined that they were held for appropriate purposes – to discuss personnel matters as they relate to specific employees. As for the notice of the Special Meeting, the notice itself was timely – because it was posted more than 24 hours before the meeting – but it was otherwise deficient because it did not explain the reasons why the Town was unable to meet the typical 7-day advance notice requirement. The Town was not required to recall the meeting.

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99-IB02: FOIA Complaint Against City of New Castle

The Complainant alleged that the City of New Castle had denied her request for a copy of a consultant’s report on the management and operational efficiency of the New Castle City Police Department. The City acknowledged that it denied the request for a copy of the full report, but further responded that it had sent the Complainant a copy of the report’s general findings and withheld the rest on the grounds that the police officer interviews contained therein constituted “personnel files” which were not required to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) and were otherwise protected from disclosure by a common law right of privacy. Held: the report did not constitute a “personnel record,” but the contents could be withheld under a common law right of privacy. Because the private information could not be meaningfully redacted from the report, the City did not violate the public records requirements of FOIA in refusing the Complainant’s request.

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